National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo has come to a close and I am proud to say I have finished! There were some bumps, like, for instance getting a new puppy and prepping a manuscript for submission to my editor. However, the NaNoWriMo story is done, the manuscript will be ready to go out, and the puppy is still alive.
This success, however, isn’t as important as something I did in October: I made the choice to try. You see, at the end of October I had to decide whether or not I was going to add NaNoWriMo to my list of tasks for November. This decision, of course, came with a hearty helping of fear: Will I let people down in my life because I’m too focused on writing? Will the 50,000-word story turn out to be complete rubbish? On the flip side, if I don’t do NaNoWriMo, will I miss out on valuable networking opportunities in the NaNo community? Will I end up tabling my idea and potentially missing out on writing the first draft of a great piece of work?
All of these questions hit me in October, and it was all thanks to fear. Fear is great; It gets us to stop and think. I’ve taken some time to talk to friends and acquaintances about fear and usually the physical, tangible fears come up: fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of a Baywatch Nights revival (which is apparently a legitimate tangible fear). But what I’m talking about is a more insidious, inconspicuous fear: the fear of making the wrong choice. It’s different, and yet like the others, it gets us to go, “Whoa, how might this impact my life? Are the prospective benefits worth the risk?”
But, like a well-aged scotch or a pile of warm crispy waffles, too much fear can be disastrous. People I know have let this fear of choice cripple them. They shy away from choices altogether, especially ones with the chance of failure. Strangely enough, this refusal to choose is in and of itself a choice, and usually the worst one of all. It reinforces the feeling of comfort in not trying, not changing, staying stagnant. It’s a slow death, one where instead of failing and growing, the person withers and dies.
Now, I know that sometimes not acting is a choice as well, but there’s a very important distinction there. Trying something new or not is a choice we get all the time, and choosing to not spend resources on something new and instead continue to invest in what’s going on currently is powerful. But when there is a choice to make and the person doesn’t commit resources or brainpower, that’s the problem. We are constantly shown multiple paths to take, none of which come with guaranteed success. But don’t shy away from these paths, my friend! No! Because no matter what happens, it’s guaranteed that if you just pick a path, and start walking, you will learn.
Doing NaNoWriMo, for me, was about making a choice to walk a different path. I stopped, let fear hold me long enough to get information on what might happen depending on which path I took, and then I kept walking. Now I know that if I had let the decision pass, I would have missed out on learning just how hard I could push myself, just how much I could devote to writing. Better yet, I found out that NaNoWriMo, and manuscript editing, and LIFE, all at once, is my limit; yet another great learning experience.
I may not know a lot about writing, but I have struggled and fought with fear my whole life, identified it, and molded it as best I could to work with me and not against me. I recommend you do the same. You have no idea what you can do until you try a path and see where it takes you.